Archive for Culture & Arts from Israel

Once upon a time, I lived on a kibbutz

by on June 12, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Returning to Israel after so many years was more than a rendezvous with nostalgia. My current life as a publicist, entrepreneur and blogger met the former me, a teenage girl with a pony-tail on an adventure that more than shaped the rest of her life.

This story is a very long one and not typical of my regular blog posts. For that reason, I’ve shortened the introduction – click on more if you’re interested in reading the entire piece. It’s a story of a journey back in time, back to Israel and the life I knew 23′ish years ago, hitching and living on the road and working on a far left Zionist kibbutz, a fact I didn’t know when I first arrived.

My first experience in Israel was a coming-of-age story in countless ways. I never saw Israel as a new country full of immigrants who went there to find a better life for many of the same reasons the oppressed and the misfits flocked to the States at the turn of the century.

Nearly all of my encounters during that trip so many years ago were with misfits — misfits who were on a journey to find themselves and each other. They came from nearly every corner of the world, had a wide range of belief systems and religions, and ranged from 17 to 70.


Cathy’s Traveling Geeks wrap-up

by on May 21, 2008 at 12:00 pm

With the mental maelstrom sorted, I’m clear of mind enough to hammer out some final thoughts from my Kinnernet/Traveling Geeks 2008 adventure in Israel.

In the spirit of brevity (and clarity), I’m opting to embrace my not-so-inner-Virgo moon and clear out these last items in short order.

So fasten your seat belt, and perhaps keep a crash helmet nearby, as I whip through a series of powerful and impactful events:

Rogozin School
There is, at some point, a far more in-depth commentary from me about this visit. For now, however, I’ll defer to the words of my fellow TG, Robert Scoble because his truly touching post paints a lovely picture of our visit.

Peres Center for Peace
In December 2006, I had the pleasure of hearing Shimon Peres speak at LeWeb. He said that while governments might posture and make noise about peace, the truth is that it was up to the private sector to establish the infrastructure necessary to maintain and grow a peaceful society. That is what the Peres Center for Peace endeavors to do – bridge chasms between disparate groups by bringing the sides together to tackle common issues (education, agriculture, children).

Good Vision
Sadly I missed most of this presentation. As was the case with pretty much our entire week, we were running late. Based on an earlier version of our schedule, which showed Thursday afernoon open, I had arranged a series of meetings with entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv.

My TG colleagues who took part in these meetings each offered glowing reviews. But rather than try and paraphrase, I’ll point you to Renee Blodgett’s accounting of the visit.

Israeli Entrepreneurship – the Ladies’ Way
This trip to Israel brought with it several opportunities to meet a few of the powerful women rising in the ranks of this innovative community. Susan Mernit wrote a great post that captures the essence of how the woman who populate this incredibly aggressive and rapidly moving technology market manage to blaze trails while remaining utterly committed to forward movement of technology and in supporting other women in the market.

My last meeting finished up at about 7:00pm. The Traveling Geeks were to have one last dinner together, but unfortunately some pressing deadlines back in the States required that I work through dinner (since I’d spend the entire next day on the plane).

I sent the last email, got my bags pretty much packed, and that’s when I made a decision that, while perhaps not the most intelligent choice I’ve ever made, certainly was fun.

Our flight was to depart at about 8am. That meant getting to the airport by 6am. Which meant leaving the hotel around 5:15am.

“No problem,” I thought to myself. “I just won’t go to sleep.”


While the tales of the evening are amusing, I have to think about whether or not they’re appropriate to share … (and of course if I have to think about it, that probably means the answer is that I shouldn’t).

But in any case … with the trip now in the rearview mirror and many adventures on the horizon, I conclude this last Traveling Geeks Israel 2008 post… and look forward to the future and more TG adventures!

Israel Photo Collection

by on May 3, 2008 at 12:00 pm

I officially uploaded a sample of photos from my recent Israel trip. It was a hard choice to decide what to upload from a collection of more than 1,000 shots. A handful of these shots were taken on my very first trip to Israel now more than twenty years ago and I included them for giggles. Enjoy!

Adam Sher’s Perspective on Art & Life

by on May 1, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Through fashion maven and start-up founder Daria Shualy, I was introduced to Israeli artist Adam Sher, who came to Israel when he was 19 from Russia after serving in the “Red Army.” He brought with him his animation style of art, where he has done an entire series of Disney characters in realistic form.


In Russia, realism is much more popular than it is in Israel where artistic expression is much more free-form, a style he says he now prefers. He is now working on more abstract pieces. Of the pieces in his southern Tel Aviv studio, my favorite by far was this self-portrait painting he did of himself with his son.



I was able to spend time with Adam in his studio before leaving Israel earlier this month. Here’s the result of an interesting back and forth dialogue about his life, his ‘coming’ to Israel and how he paved the way for a career as an artist.

Renee: When did you know you wanted to paint? Was it a particular incident or did you always just know?
Adam: I started to paint at a very early age; I always hold a pencil or brush in my childhood memories . I grew up in small village in the Ukraine, where there were no conditions to develop my skills, nor was there any real support from my parents, so it was a hobby until later on.

With pressure from my family, (like a good Jewish boy) I chose to study medicine and after 4 years, I went to serve in the Soviet Army as planned. During my army service (that’s a different story?), we left. After moving to Israel in 1990, I went to college for graphic design and illustration studies and since then, I’ve been an graphic designer and art director.

I have a friend who studied in New York and took me to some of her classes. Here, she showed me what canvas and colors are and the rest is history?

Renee: You speak of traditional realism in Europe, particularly in Russia which is not so much the case in Israel I understand from you and also a friend of mine in Tel Aviv who is an art curator. What are your feelings about both and the value of both?

Adam: Traditional realism wasn’t really accepted here in Israel, maybe because the country is only 60 years old,. After WW2, realism was objected by new art movements. Israeli people tried to build a new society that ignored any tradition, thus influencing the art scene here?

I feel lucky that I didn’t study art seriously in Russia since they focus mainly on technique, and less on creativity.

I think that I’m still a “stranger” here, standing a bit on the outside of the local art scene. Most Israeli artists deal with these main themes: the Middle East conflict, the Holocaust and “self observation”.

I deal more with the aesthetics of average every day things that surround us. Here is what Israeli Maayan Shelef said of my work:

“Adam Sher takes an activist approach to art, initiating artistic events, exhibitions, and community activities. In addition to personal projects he collaborates with groups of artists with a similar vision. His creative process forms a circle; he documents the daily living environment and returns to it in the exhibition stage by choosing alternative spaces that are part of the everyday experience. Galleries alongside nightlife and leisure spaces, institutions and industrial areas. These spaces are like temporary homes for the paintings, as Sher believes that his paintings are meant to be hung in a living room. There they fulfill their conceptual purpose – a connection between the indoor and the outdoor that creates the urban aesthetics. His ambition is to communicate with the viewer in a basic, universal way. His painted world is not ideal or na?ve but sober. The magic and innocence that we find in this sobriety, is what makes us connect to his paintings so deeply.”

Renee: What do you most love about the more realistic work you have done so far?

Adam: I think that my most realistic work so far is the self portrait with my 2 kids (as you saw at my studio (as also shown above) I called it “Millstone” since being a father is a very serious responsibility but it’s the most expensive and important thing you have? after a year and a half break in painting, I went back to the studio and painted Millstone in two days.

My wife doesn’t like the name, but I think it’s honest. For me, realism is not just about a painting’s technique, but its also a method to express our feelings in the most honest way.


Renee: What inspired your work with Disney characters and animation?

Adam: Below Israeli art curator Nir Harmat describes my exhibition “Happy Dead End” where I presented several large paintings of cartoon characters:

“Adam Sher’s embalmed images are realistically copied from miniature Disney plastic figurines found in a dump and bought by the pound. Sher grants new strength to these images. He removes them from their natural habitat and isolates them; taking them out of proportion to a full size enlargement and having them confront the viewer at eye level. In fact, this is a conversion of the real with the signifiers of reality. That is, the images receive autonomic power and the status of functional doubles.”

Renee: What is the best thing about being an artist in Israel? the worst?

Adam: I don’t think it’s that easy to be an Israeli artist because there’s more interest around politics and less on global issues……the artists who have different styles and ideas don’t have too many options to exhibit and sell their work.

Renee: What is the best thing about living in Israel? the worst?

Adam: I’m pretty happy living here. Even though it’s a small country, I feel very connected here, and part of the western culture without an obligation to any tradition (as in Old Europe) or the limitation of being over politically correct (as in the U.S).

The big minus is the ongoing chronic war with the Palestinians that corrupts all spheres of our life here and maybe our escapisms, which is many people’s answer to the situation.

More examples of his work below:




Nimrod’s Coffee of Love

by on April 30, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Rosh Pina in Tel Aviv’s Port. The below is a story of Nimrod’s Coffee house which was opened in 2007 with the purpose of immortalizing the heritage “The Good Life” that Nimrod left his sister in his death. Below is the background of the creation of Nimrod’s Coffee of Love.

Nimrod’s sister writes. I admit. I didn’t believe in love. Actually I was one of those who didn’t believe love existed until Nimrod married Iris. And then everything changed. I needed that my only brother would get married in order to believe that true love existed. “What’s the secret of happiness?” I asked him. “The Good Life,” he answered in his simple way.

We left Rosh Pina. Nimrod became a high-tech manager at Microsoft and I moved to America. In my visits, I discovered Nimrod was having a dilemma which was more preferable; to go with his beloved Iris and little Omer and Vick, to our childhood village, Rosh Pina, or take them to the harbor in Tel Aviv.

What is love? Nimrod taught me. In love, there are no boundaries, no barriers. It’s an endless flow.

I had a tour contract in Mexico and Nimrod was in the middle of preparations to the annual Microsoft convention in Israel when the Second Lebanon War started. My parents and I begged: “leave everything and come over to Mexico.”

Nimrod was drafted, as a reserved soldier with a special emergency call. Before he left home for Lebanon, he wrote his beloved Iris a poem:

At about midnight they called me.
It was the telephone announcing machine.
Her voice said: Soldier – Gathering Spots!
You yelled you weren’t ready
Even though you were –
In your sleep –
To pay the price.

I said, pretty thing. It’s routine.
Every soldier-citizen has to go.
I kissed her, I calmed her as if for real.
I hoped to be back before Fall.

When the tank entered the land of Lebanon
I put on my armour,
Praying you wouldn’t call me on the phone.

A simple high-tech man from Ramat Gan
Taking his children to school.
Fighting terrorists at night.

Tell me, will all this help
Tomorrow or the day after
When I come back
And all this business will be over –

In the end you fight to live.
In the end you fight like animals.
For the silence within.

On August 19 of the Hebrew month of Av, the Hebrew Valentines Day, the announcing officers knocked on Iris’s door.

Hagai Segev on Art, Design & Architecture

by on April 29, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Hagai Segev, an Israeli friend of mine recently edited and translated the book Improvisation: New Design in Israel by designer Mel Byers. Hagai was a foreign exchange student near my hometown in the early eighties and 23+ years later, we’re still in touch.


Hagai is an international art curator in Tel Aviv, where he spends some of his time doing shows for up and coming Israeli artists and some of his time editing design and art books. He started his career as a curator at the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem where he primarily focused on archeology and architecture.

This led him to conduct historical tours of old Jerusalem, including some of the greats in art and literature like Hungarian nobel prize winner Umbrae Curtis, Umberto Eco, Paul Auster and Irish writer Iris Murdoch.

He planned a large exhibition of art history in Jerusalem for the 3000th anniversary in 1995 and for awhile, was also the Director of the Gallery at the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa. He grew up on Kibbutz Nahal-Oz near the Gaza strip, not that far from Kibbutz Zikim, where I spent time on in the mid-eighties.

Like Zikim, It was also a kibbutz that had separate houses for children, meaning the children were separated from their parents for chunks of time and slept apart even though they lived in the same community.

Today, he is married to a woman who has three translation companies based on one of the Goddesses of Syria. I spent Shabat with them this year, an evening I won’t forget anytime soon. Sadly, I missed Anat’s exquisite chocolate cranberry cake since I had a redeye to catch.

Hagai gave me an overview of some of Tel Aviv’s history, which included a long slow walk down Rothchild Boulevard. The infamous Bauhaus Architecture from the 1930s and 40s remains, although they apparently moved some of these buildings forward and built larger more modern complexes behind the Bauhaus houses.



Below are examples of some of the designs from the Improvisation book that were publicly displayed at trendy shop LeEla on Bait Banamal in the Port area of Tel Aviv.









Hertzel Street

by on April 28, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Hertzel Street in southern Tel Aviv. I loved this building. It reminded me in some ways of the buildings in the old mill town where I grew up in upstate New York. Today, after the leather factories are no more, the delapitated buildings live on.







A Slow Walk Through Old Jerusalem

by on April 27, 2008 at 12:00 pm

I had a marvelous slow walk through old Jerusalem last week. Bear in mind that this is a city which has been conquered thirty-seven times, controlled successfully by Jews, Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, and during World War I, the British.

Below is a sample of what I captured from a total of over 1,000 shots.











































Recent Works of Haya Ran

by on April 27, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Below are recent works of Israeli artist Haya Ran. These paintings were based on photographs of family members from the twenties and thirties when they lived on a kibbutz in the south. Her fixation with legs in these paintings was apparently due to the fact that she saw an emphasis on young girls legs in the photos and wanted to highlight them in her work to demonstrate this point.



Integrating Waldorf Education

by on April 26, 2008 at 12:00 pm

My Tel Aviv friends Hagai and Anot are sending their kids to a Waldorf School. I had heard about the Waldorf philosophy over the years, but don’t know anyone in the states who has gone that route. Alas, not only did I learn the pros through their eyes, but by also watching their children in action.

Waldorf Education integrates the arts and academics for children from preschool through twelfth grade. It encourages the development of each child’s sense of truth, beauty, and goodness, and provides an antidote to violence, alienation, and cynicism.

Apparently from ages 7-14, you focus on emotional development, including the basics, like how you treat others. Ages 14-21 are key for developing your physical body. Children are encouraged to physically act out what they learn. One example they gave me was ‘walking the letter B before and after saying it and writing it.’

Instead of reading through an entire novel or a chapter on the History of Ancient Greece, children are encouraged to draw what they hear and learn. I saw notebooks from third and fourth grades that showed the Waldorf approach to mathematics. Their kids did their multiplication exercises on artistic pads using pastels and brightly colored crayons. One of the kids encircled his homework with a creative colorful jagged edge.

Here are a few examples:







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